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By Dale Wetzel, Associated Press Writer, Published January 29 2010

Officials: Oil line expands market

BISMARCK – A proposed pipeline will provide more market options for western North Dakota oil producers and reduce the number of heavy trucks hauling crude on the region’s battered roads, state regulators said.

Bridger Pipeline LLC wants to build the 85-mile Four Bears pipeline through McKenzie, Dunn and Billings counties in western North Dakota later this year, according to state Public Service Commission filings.

The proposed line is intended to connect with three pipeline networks that supply crude to the Tesoro Corp. refinery at Mandan, and to refineries in Minnesota and Wyoming.

Patrick Fahn, the commission’s markets director, said the 10-inch pipeline will be able to handle 40,000 barrels of oil daily that otherwise might be shipped by truck.

Kevin Cramer, the commission’s chairman, said the project would provide cheaper and better options for oil shippers.

“While it doesn’t enhance the interstate transmission capacity at all, it does create a more efficient and economic way to move the oil, as well as a much safer way,” Cramer said.

Commissioner Tony Clark said an underdeveloped pipeline network has left some of the region’s oil producers with limited options in selling their crude, which drives down its price.

“If you’re a producer and you can access multiple markets, it makes a huge difference,” Clark said.

Bridger filed a letter of intent Dec. 23 to build the pipeline, according to commission filings. Normally a year must pass before a formal route application is sought, but the PSC voted Wednesday to shorten the time period to one month.

Bridger, which is part of the True Cos. of Casper, Wyo., expects to begin construction of the pipeline in July and finish it by year’s end, according to commission filings. The company estimates the pipeline will cost $25 million to build.

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